January 8, 2008

Ceramic Hybrid Needles Take the Sting Out of Shots

Painful injections and blood draws may soon be a thing of the past. New polymerization technology may cause the sting of a needle piercing the skin to disappear. For years, biomedical engineers have made attempts to develop a way to deliver drugs intravenously without pain. Until now their closest creation has been a metal microneedle which tends to break upon impact with skin.

Roger Narayan and his team of researchers at the University of North Carolina and Laser Zentrum Hanover have recently devised a solution. Using two-photon polymerization of organically modified ceramic (Ormocer®), these groups have crated microneedles which are resistant to breakage.

These needles are hollow and fine, and clustered together they can deliver medicine or draw blood as efficiently as hypodermic needles without the pain that standard needles cause. These new hybrid needles can be made in a wider range of sizes than conventional needles as well.

Those who require blood monitoring or frequent injections will be the first patients to benefit from this technology, Narayan thinks.

"Microneedles may be integrated with micropumps and biosensors to provide autonomous sampling of blood, analysis, and drug-delivery capabilities for treatment of chronic disease," he said. "For example, one needle, pump and sensor unit would assay the glucose level in interstitial fluid of patients with diabetes mellitus. Another needle, pump and drug-delivery unit would deliver insulin in a continuous or programmed manner."